31 Oct 2015

European Golden Plover - a "First" for Hong Kong

LAST Sunday things got off to a slow start.  I missed the rising tide and settled for a couple of shots of a nice male Kestrel over the hills near Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus

Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus

Later I waited for the tide to go out. The waders circled, looking for exposed areas of mud.

Far Eastern Curlew - Numenius madagascariensis

Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus

The birding highlight (but not for the duck) was seeing an Eastern Marsh Harrier predate a Garganey in the shallow waters near the tideline.

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus
 The harrier drowned the duck in the receding waters.
Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus
Oddly, though, the harrier dropped the dead duck on the mudflat and didn't come back for it. Lunch for a Collared Crow instead, perhaps.

Collared Crow - Corvus pectoralis
Back at the Border Fence gate, my mobile coverage improved, and I saw a Whats App message by Ivan TSE about a suspiciously large Golden Plover he had found on the "scrape" (Mai Po's ponds 16 and 17).

I cycled to hide 7 (overlooking the seaward end of ponds 16/17) and met Ivan coming the other way.  Through his scope we could see two Golden Plovers, one obviously a Pacific Golden Plover (regular here in HK) and this bigger bird.

The accompanying Pacific Golden Plover provided some useful comparison with the suspect European GP.

The European Golden Plover is the lower bird - note white axillaries, Pacific Golden Plover above

European (l) and Pacific (r) Golden Plovers

A bit of a "twitch" was already brewing, and the bird stayed around until late afternoon. A number of birders and photographers saw it, as outlined on the HKBWS website here


An hour before sunset our distinguished visitor finally took off and headed out into the bay beyond the fence.
European Golden Plover - Pluvialis aricaria
This bird seems likely to be accepted by the HK Records Committee as European Golden Plover, due to the easy comparison with the Pacific Golden Plover, and the notes and number of photos taken (not just mine, obviously) during the hours the bird was in view.


  1. Nice record John! I like the harrier shots too.

  2. Great shots John, a bird a dipped on last Sunday!

  3. Nice one John! Love the Collared Crow pic and the Harrier pics are stunning - not often one witnesses such a sighting as this.

  4. Congratulations on the Golden Plover sighting. Today I got to see a good vagrant in Anchorage, Costa's Hummingbird. Normally they occur in the Southwestern deserts.
    Great comparison photos between the two Golden plover species. I really loved the harrier photos with the unfortunate Garganey.

  5. Congrats on the addition to the HK list and wonderful Harrier pics, didn't know they could be so aggessive................

  6. John, fantastic collection as always! I actually was back in Mai Po from mid September til early October. Not having the boardwalk pass these days, I didn't get to see the Pied Harrier. Shame, as it's a species I really wanted to see again. Your photos are always telling me to Hong Kong is still a special place for birds and birders alike. Best!

  7. Thanks everyone......it was a "Red Letter Day" !

  8. Hi everyone, I am new to birding in Hong Kong and I am planning on going to Mai Po soon, is it closed during Chinese New Year?